It’s been more than a decade since former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was executed for his crimes against the Iraqi people, but we’re still learning new things about his life all the time.
The latest story comes to us by way of War History Online which has an interesting tale about the time that Hussein commissioned the building of a secret super gun called Project Babylon.
War History Online details the interesting story behind the project helmed by a Canadian man named Gerald Bull. Bull was an obviously brilliant but troubled man who had difficulty respecting authority. The arc of his life led him to a job with Saddam Hussein and a project that would have built a “super gun” that was able to shoot projectiles into space and as far away as Israel or Iran. Bull was eventually assassinated in Europe, which is an interesting and “made-for-TV” story in and of itself…
But this story is about the super gun that Bull tried to build for the corrupt Middle Eastern dictator, Saddam Hussein.
Bull was involved in projects for the South African Republic in the 1970’s, building howitzers to help them defeat the Communists in Angola. The CIA provided this contract to Bull, so he could help change the tide in the war since the Cubans and the Soviets were supporting the Angolan Communists.
He had been accused of gun running by the UN, under the Carter administration, and landed in jail for six months in 1980. This event fueled his mercenary-scientist attitude and in 1988 he agreed to help Saddam Hussein build a supergun under the title Project Babylon.
During this time, Bull had produced two superguns – Baby Babylon and Big Babylon. Baby Babylon was a prototype which served for test purposes. It used a 13.5 inch (350 mm) projectile which was fired through a barrel 151 ft (46 m) long. It could achieve a range of up to 466 miles, or 750 kilometers and it weighed 102 tonnes. It was completely immobile.
The next step was Big Babylon. The intention was to build a pair of these. Its specifications were a 512 ft (156 m) barrel that fired a 3,3 (1 m) ft projectile. It was supposed to weigh 2,100 tonnes. Bull applied his HARP research on the building of this gun, as it was intended to be a space gun, possibly firing satellites into the orbit.
The other possible purpose was military, but it demanded a terminal guidance system built in the projectile, since the weapon itself was completely immobile and had no possibility to be elevated, or trained. Its ability to fire conventional projectiles was fairly limited. It was impossible to aim with it; it had a slow rate of fire and a “signature” blast that gave away its position almost immediately after firing. Its combat use was of no more significance than the earlier German superguns.
It was never really clear what purpose Saddam Hussein wanted these guns to be used, for Iraq at that time had already acquired Scud missiles which were both more effective and practical than the supergun. Nevertheless, Bull planned to deliver an improved version of the Big Babylon, the one that could be fitted on a train cart and moved if necessary. The range of the third gun was to be around 625 miles (1000 km), which would jeopardize both Israel and Iran, with whom Saddam had troubled diplomatic relations, to say the least.
Big Babylon supergun was never finished because the mastermind behind it, Gerald Bull was assassinated in Brussels in March 1990.